The word scrum (short for scrummage) is usually used in the context of rugby. But how would it be used when talking about process improvement? Let’s find out.

In rugby, a scrum is a method of restarting play after the ball goes out of bounds or there is a penalty. It involves players packing closely together with their heads down and attempting to gain possession of the ball. But how did it become part of continuous improvement?

Below is the history of scrum as it relates to process improvement. 

History of Scrum

Overview: What is Scrum? 

Like a rugby scrum, a product or process development scrum relies on coordination, communication, and specific roles to execute and organize projects.  It uses cross-functional teams which have all the necessary capabilities to deliver project outcomes from conception to inception to completion.

Scrum project management consists of: 

  • the project team 
  • a project manager
  • a product owner
  • a Scrum Master 
  • other cross-functional team members

The product owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product, while the Scrum Master is accountable for ensuring the project team follows the Scrum methodology.

The Scrum methodology is characterized by short phases or sprints when project work occurs. During the sprint planning phase, the project team identifies a small part of the overall project scope to be completed during a future sprint. This is usually a two-to-four week period of time. 

At the end of the sprint, the work should be ready to be delivered to the relevant person or functional area. The sprint concludes with a sprint review and discussion of lessons learned. This process repeats until the full scope of the project has been delivered.

Although like traditional project management, a key difference with a sprint is the delivery of portions of the project along the way rather than delivering everything at the end. This allows the value of the project to be realized throughout the process rather than waiting to see the results once the project is completed. 

An industry example of Scrum 

One of the biggest challenges the construction industry faces is to plan for contingencies during construction that can disrupt the completion schedule. Certain tasks need to be done before others can be started. Additionally, problems need to be discovered as early as possible. Often, the completion of certain tasks takes so long that the entire project needs to be revised to accommodate the new requirements. This can result in recurring costs, delays in the schedule and negative impact on the overall quality.

The project involved the building of a thirty-story condominium for the Miami, Florida market. Scrum was implemented in the design phase of the project. The Scrum framework emphasized on-time problem identification and solutions. For construction, not only is discovering problems early on in the process vital but also to study, inspect, and adapt accordingly. Sprint reviews and retrospective in the Scrum method provided structure and discipline to accomplish this.

The results of the Scrum were as follows:

  • In the design and planning stages of construction. The concept of a sprint especially was very helpful. Work could be divided into traditional milestones, such as inspection points.
  • The Scrum environment also helped better collaboration with the developer and future owners.
  • The multiple meetings helped different team members, especially those not in the relevant field of expertise, to understand why something was done in a certain way. This helped team members improve their knowledge.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Scrum

Is Scrum and Agile the same? 

It is easy to confuse the two of them. But the difference is Agile is a project management philosophy that utilizes a core set of values or principles. Scrum is a specific Agile methodology that is used to facilitate a specific defined project.

What are the basic rules for a Scrum Sprint? 

They are:

  1. Every Sprint is four weeks or less in duration
  2. There are no breaks between Sprints
  3. Every Sprint is the same length
  4. The intention of every Sprint is “potentially shippable” software
  5. Every Sprint includes Sprint planning
  6. The Sprint planning meeting is time boxed to 2 hours/week of Sprint length
  7. The Daily Scrum occurs every day at the same time of day
  8. The Daily Scrum is time boxed to 15 minutes
  9. Every Sprint includes Sprint Review for stakeholder feedback on the product
  10. Every Sprint includes Sprint Retrospective for the team to inspect and adapt
  11. Review and Retrospective meetings are time boxed in total to 2 hours/week of Sprint length
  12. There is no break between Sprint Review and Retrospective meetings

Basic rules of a Scrum Sprint

What are the key Scrum roles? 

The product owner who has the overall accountability for the scrum outcomes. The Scrum Master who keeps the scrum on track and on task and follows the scrum methodology. The scrum team provides input and experience during the scrum sprints.

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